San Quentin Puppy Raising Program

a puppy raiser handler at San Quentin Rehabilitation Center kneels down and touches the face of a black Canine Companions puppy in a yellow vestA new puppy raising program began this Spring at San Quentin Rehabilitation Center, when two future service dogs, Artemis and Wendel, entered the facility to begin their journeys.

“I am able to give back to a community that I took so much from,” one handler shares. “This dog is going to serve a veteran, someone with disabilities. He has a job to do, and I have a hand in it.”

The puppies will be raised at San Quentin and be socialized with volunteer puppy raisers in the surrounding community. The program started with two pups and four handlers and has quickly expanded to 13 handlers and six puppies, with additional puppies coming through San Quentin for about a month at a time.

As San Quentin looks toward rehabilitation, the puppy raising program is an incredible addition to their facility. “We gotta start somewhere. We are going to be dealing with people who are our neighbors,” says Lt. Guim’Mara Berry with San Quentin Rehabilitation Center. “So with that, you want to try to provide as many employable resources as possible.” Lt. Landon Bravo adds, “It creates an opportunity for the handlers and the entire unit to give back.”

Canine Companions is proud of the incredible impact of our prison puppy raising programs. “These programs do a really amazing job of connecting the people here at San Quentin and other people that are incarcerated, with the community outside,” shares Canine Companions Director of Puppy Program James Dern. Not only are prison puppy raising programs incredible for the facilities and handlers, but it’s also impactful to Canine Companions’ community and staff. Northwest Region Puppy Program Manager Susan Porteous shares, “Seeing those individuals find hope and a purpose and meaning in what they’re doing with this program, brings so much meaning to us, too.”

One handler reflects on the personal growth he’s experienced, “I think one of the biggest things for me when it comes to this program is it allows me to make a living amends.” Participation in the program becomes a form of redemption, “For the bad decisions I made, my crimes, the people that I’ve hurt – I’m able to help these dogs and in turn help someone else who’s out there who I’ve never met before.” He continues, “We’re breaking the cycle of violence and turning it into love and empathy and compassion.”

Another handler shared his motivation for being in the program, sharing, “It’s a great opportunity to be of service. I just wanted to help out and give back any way I can.” He continues, “This is groundbreaking for us. To have this here in San Quentin, it’s real rehabilitation. The possibilities are endless.”

We’re thrilled about this new program and look forward to seeing the incredible service dogs and handlers that come out of this program. 

Click here to learn more about our prison puppy raising program.